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Capitals still looking for trading partner

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Capitals still looking for trading partner

Even though the 2015 NHL draft came and went without the Capitals making a significant trade, Caps general manager Brian MacLellan still believes the trade market – and not the free agent market -- is the best place for him to improve his soon-to-be-depleted roster for next season.

“I anticipate not being active right off the hop,” MacLellan told reporters when asked about his plans for Wednesday’s start of free agency. “I don’t know if we have the money to be able to do that.

“If you’re evaluating both markets the trade [market] is the way to go for improving your club.”

Last year, MacLellan admits he overspent in the free agent market, signing defensemen Brooks Orpik and Matt Niskanen to a combined 12 years and $67 million.

But after offering what he termed a “huge” contract offer to restricted free agent goaltender Braden Holtby, MacLellan said the Caps are not in a position to be a big player in this year’s free-agent market.

“We made Holtby a good offer,” MacLellan said, declining to disclose the term or value. “I think it’s competitive and I think it’s a fair offer and I think we’ll get something done.”

The same cannot be said, at least immediately, about restricted free agent forward Marcus Johansson, who was given a qualifying offer of $2.175 million, equal to his 2014-15 salary. If Johansson is looking for $4 million a season and the Caps are only willing to pay him $3 million, his case could go to an NHL arbitrator.

It was with that in mind that the New York Rangers traded restricted free agent forward Carl Hagelin to the Anaheim Ducks for Emerson Etem and a second-round pick on Saturday, figuring he would cost them more than $3.5 million next season and more than $4 million in future years.

The Capitals currently have about $21 million in salary space and likely will be losing defenseman Mike Green and forwards Joel Ward and Eric Fehr to free agency. Assuming the Caps come to an agreement with Holtby, restricted free agent Evgeny Kuznetsov and unrestricted free agent Jay Beagle, they would have nine forwards, six defensemen and two goaltenders under contract for next season with an estimated $9 or $10 million left over to fill three forward spots, including Johansson’s.

If Johansson eats up $4 million, MacLellan would be left with roughly $5 million or $6 million to land a top-line right wing and a depth defenseman.

MORE CAPITALS: CAPS BOLSTER BLUE LINE THROUGH DRAFT SATURDAY

Of course the Capitals could also free up cap space by trading a veteran like Brooks Laich, Troy Brouwer or Jason Chimera. It is with all of that in mind that MacLellan wades trepidly into the trade/free agent waters.

Chicago Blackhawks right wing Patrick Sharp, 33, is an attractive possibility, but he carries a cap hit of $5.9 million for two more years.

Vancouver’s Radim Vrbata, 34, is coming off a 31-goal season and has one year and $5 million left on his deal.

T.J. Oshie, 28, has put up similar offensive numbers as Johansson, and carries two more years at $4.175 million each.

Perhaps the best bargain out there is Islanders right wing Kyle Okposo, but Brooklyn/New York general manager Garth Snow changed his tune before the draft, saying he “doesn’t plan” on trading the 27-year-old right wing, who has one year and $4.5 million remaining on his contract.

MacLellan said he’s hopeful that some of the trade talks he initiated before and during this weekend’s draft result in a trade that addresses the Capitals’ needs, which are now at the forward position.

“There were a couple opportunities that were discussed and might still be ongoing,” MacLellan said. “Well see what happens over the next few days and weeks. A lot of talk happened in general over the past week. Some things happened and some things didn’t and some things are still ongoing. I think now it turns into players, but it might be picks involved in next year’s draft, too.”

MacLellan said there is still a chance that he invites a pending UFA to Washington to meet with ownership and the coaching staff prior to Wednesday’s free agency period but did not confirm that will happen.

Thane Campbell, the agent for Los Angeles Kings soon-to-be free agent Justin Williams, declined to say whether the 33-year-old right wing and three-time Stanley Cup champion planned on visiting Washington, saying he did not want to create a more competitive market than already exists go his client.

As for MacLellan, he said he’ll return to D.C. and devise a strategy for the start of free agency.

“We’ll monitor the market,” he said, “and see what the [pay] levels are at and see where we can jump in.” 

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Alex Ovechkin scored the goal that sent the Capitals to the Stanley Cup Final

Alex Ovechkin scored the goal that sent the Capitals to the Stanley Cup Final

On June 4, 1998, Joe Juneau scored the biggest goal in the history of the Washington Capitals.

In Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Final, Juneau attacked the crease and shot in a rebound past a helpless Dominik Hasek in overtime to defeat the Buffalo Sabres and win the Eastern Conference.

That goal sent the Capitals to its first and, before 2018, only Stanley Cup Final.

Alex Ovechkin’s name was already etched in the history books for the Capitals several times over, but on Wednesday he added it again with the biggest goal of his career. His goal in Game 7 stood as the game-winner meaning it was the goal that sent the Capitals to their second Cup Final.

You can watch it here:

It did not come in overtime and was not quite as dramatic as Juneau’s. In fact, no one knew the significance of the goal at the time. It came just 62 seconds into the contest. It was a significant goal, but no one realized right away that it would be an historic one.

How fitting is it that Ovechkin scored the game-winner? Ovechkin who this team was built around, who reignited the franchise and built Washington into a hockey city. After all the criticism over the years, all the talk about how he can’t win, all talk about how the team should take away the C and all the talk about how the Caps should trade him and start over, this goal was not just a moment of history, but one of vindication.

When we look back on Ovechkin’s career, at all the individual awards and accomplishments, this one single goal will stand above the rest. This was the biggest game of his career and he scored the biggest goal of his career just 62 seconds in.

There’s one way he can top that: lead the Caps past Vegas for their first Stanley Cup.

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D.C. fans take to the streets to celebrate after Caps beat Bolts

D.C. fans take to the streets to celebrate after Caps beat Bolts

With their 4-0 win against the Tampa Bay Lightning to advance to the Stanley Cup Final, the Capitals did something they haven't done in 20 years. It's only their second time going to the Final in team history.

Not only is it the first time in 20 years the Caps have made it to the Stanley Cup Final, it's the first time in 20 years that ANY D.C. team has reached a championship round. After being disappointed by their teams in the playoffs year in and year out, D.C. fans were ready to celebrate their city changing the narrative. F Street outside Capital One Arena was packed with fans cheering, celebrating and chanting "We want Vegas."

If you thought the National Portrait Gallery steps were packed after the Caps beat the Penguins, that was nothing compared to Wednesday night.

Caps fans were even representing outside Amalie Arena in Tampa, cheering on the Caps as they left to return home. 

National sports pundits have criticized the D.C. fanbase in the past for not being passionate enough. Michael Wilbon recently said the nation's capital is a 'minor league sports town.' Does this reaction say minor league sports town to you? I don't think so. D.C. fans are the real deal, and they're ready for the Caps to be in the Stanley Cup Final.

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Caps headed to Cup: First Cup Final in 20 years
Wilson throws hands: Is not to be messed with
Ovi and the Cup: 13 years in the making